NUTLEY, NJ — Despite not being able to meet in person due to COVID-19, the Michael D. Reilley Scholarship Foundation still awarded scholarships to two worthy high school seniors. One winner was Nutley resident Samantha Gabriele and the other was Kristin Bindas, the daughter of an L3Harris Technologies employee.
Gabriele and Bindas each received $3,000 to go toward their college tuition payments. Since its inception, the Reilley Scholarship Foundation has awarded nine scholarships totaling $27,000.
The Michael D. Reilley Scholarship Foundation was formed to honor the memory of and carry on the spirit of unmatched perseverance and courage exhibited by its namesake, a deceased Nutley resident.
Reilley was an inspiration to many. Paralyzed by a diving accident after his junior year of high school, he lived his entire life beyond the physical confines of his wheelchair before succumbing to cancer in late 2015. Reilley was an international traveler, talented artist, diehard Yankees fan, fantasy baseball league commissioner, free-spirited dancer and intellectual. With Reilley, there was never a dance floor left unconquered or a problem left unsolved.
Reilley graduated from Nutley High School in 1977 and earned a degree in science from Rutgers University. After college, he worked for ITT Corporation in Nutley/Clifton for more than 25 years, quickly climbing the company program management ladder. His career advancements led him to be responsible for managing multimillion-dollar design and development programs, including satellite navigational communication payloads for the U.S. government.
Incredibly, Reilley’s courage then drove him to follow his passion of the stock market and leave his successful career at ITT. After studying and passing the rigorous test requirements, he was hired as a stockbroker for a financial firm in New York City. He later returned to ITT where his project management expertise was utilized again. In his spare time he helped design a software application marketed to help individuals track and manage their health history, a subject he understood based on his own challenges and experiences.
“Known to his friends and family as Mike, Michael, Riles, Uncle Mike and Mikey, the net of love that he cast spread farther than most people deem possible,” a press release from the foundation read. “A stranger was no longer a stranger once they met Mike. His goal in life was to make everyone around him smile and make sure that those that he loved were happy. He was a counselor, a confidant, a promise-keeper and a best friend. Michael did everything in his power to help others in need. Imagine, Mike was often the one to lift family and friends spirits when needed.
“It’s important to understand the depth of courage and perseverance that enabled Mike to meet the above accomplishments, as he had no use of his legs or hands,” the release continued. “He battled cancer for years before succumbing in late 2015. Mike lived autonomously, in his own apartment, utilizing a voice-activated control system to accomplish everyday tasks. He ran his household and life like a project manager and his family and friends were his support system.”
To honor his memory, the Michael D. Reilley Scholarship Foundation was established. The foundation has presented a minimum of two monetary scholarships annually since 2017 to deserving high school students from Reilley’s long-term communities of Nutley and the former ITT, now L3Harris Technologies in Clifton.
Donations are actively being sought to help fund scholarships in Michael’s name. Contributions can be mailed to the Michael D. Reilley Scholarship Foundation, P.O. Box 706, Nutley, NJ 07110, or made online at www.gofundme.com/6qj3ta8s.
Photos Courtesy of Bob Lehman